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What is it?

Eczema (or atopic dermatitis) is an itchy skin rash that can occur as young as two months old. It commonly occurs on the forehead, cheeks, scalp, elbows, knees or chest. Eczema is thought to be a reaction to allergy-causing substances in the environment.

Who is affected?

Approximately 10 percent of infants have eczema at some point1. A child can be more likely to develop eczema if a family member has any kind of allergic condition. Some people may suffer from eczema outbreaks throughout their lives although many childhood cases resolve completely.

What are the symptoms?

  • Dry, thickened, itchy, scaly skin
  • Tiny red bumps that may ooze or become infected if scratched

How can I prevent and treat skin conditions?

  • Prevent your child's skin from drying out:
    • Limit baths to two or three times a week
    • Baths should be limited to a few minutes
    • Don't make the water too warm (not hot to the inside of the wrist or elbow)
    • Immediately after getting out of the tub, pat skin dry and apply moisturizing cream to seal in the water that's been absorbed into the skin during the bath
  • Don't overdress your child - Use clothing made of natural fabrics such as cotton that allow the skin to breathe
  • Limit your child's exposure to allergens
    • Eczema could be linked to food allergies. Common triggers include cow's milk, eggs, wheat, soy, peanuts, and fish. If you are breastfeeding, consider eliminating these foods from your diet, since you could be passing the proteins on to your baby through your breast milk. Delay introduction of solid foods into your baby's diet until six month's of age.
    • Sometimes allergy triggers such as pollen, dust mites, and animal dander can make eczema worse (more information on allergies).
  • Switch to fragrance-free soaps and shampoos or those made for sensitive skin
  • Use mild detergents that are fragrance-free or made for sensitive skin

If an outbreak does occur, you can help prevent your child from scratching by:

  • Keeping your child's nails cut short
  • Placing cotton mittens or socks on their hands before they go to bed
  • Using the softest sheet possible, so there won't be so much friction if your child tries to rub against the sheet
  • Treating flare-ups immediately

Important additional information

If the rashes keep reoccurring see a health care professional. There may be additional steps you can take to eliminate your child's exposure to allergens. In extreme cases sometimes a short course of oral steroid medicine can help get eczema under control.

The following are examples of over-the-counter (OTC) medications that can be used to treat the symptoms of eczema:

Symptom relief Helpful medications Active ingredients* to look for in generic and name brand OTC products
Eczema Moisturizers Petrolatum
Example: Vaseline®
Antihistamine (oral) Diphenhydramine HCl
Example: Benadryl®
(Indicted for children six years old or older. For treating children under the age of six consult a health care provider.)
  Corticosteroid (cream) Hydrocortisone
Example: Cortisone®Cream


1National Eczema Association for Science and Education www.nationaleczema.org

Note: This information is intended to provide readers with health information. The information provided is not a substitute for consultation with a healthcare provider. Brand names included on this Web page are provided for examples only. Their inclusion does not mean that they are endorsed by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina.